Does academics, perfectionism cause burnout in Division III athletes?

Pacific women's basketball player Brittney Anderson turns her experiences with injury, academics into her senior project



Brittney Anderson (Sr., Missoula, Mont.) spent her entire Pacific athletics career dealing with adversity and walking the fine line between staying motivated and burning out.
 
In her sophomore year as a forward for the Pacific women’s basketball team, Anderson played all season with a torn ACL in her right knee that she suffered during the summer. Anderson got through 20 games as the first woman off the bench before the pain ended her season.
 
She returned to her junior season with the ACL fully healed, but suffered a partially torn meniscus in the same knee. She got through all 25 games, making 23 starts, but had to grit through some amazing pain.
 
“I didn’t want to go to practices because I was in pain,” said Anderson.  “I wasn’t having fun on the court for the last two to three weeks.  I was hurt and on top of that was the stress of school and the fact that I had to pick a senior project topic.”
 
Considering Anderson’s path on the basketball court, it makes sense that the exercise science major chose a project that intertwined her experiences both on the court and in the classroom.
 
Entitled “The Relationship Between Burnout And Perfectionism With The Influence Of Academic Motivation In NCAA Division III Athletes,” Anderson wanted to find out if the academic rigors that accompanied competing at a Division III had any bearing on an athlete’s motivation. In other words, does a challenging academic program take away from the quality of a Division III student-athlete?
 
The question is a fair one as many Division III schools are considered among the top academic institutions in the nation. The NCAA’s largest division with 442 member schools and over 170,000 student-athletes (accounting for over 40 percent of the NCAA’s total membership), the Division III membership roles include such academic think tanks as Caltech, MIT, Johns Hopkins, Pomona and Pitzer colleges, Washington University (St. Louis, Mo.), Grinnell and Emory.
 
At Pacific, athletics is a key part of the liberal arts experience for a significant part of the undergraduate population.  Nearly one-third of those enrolled in the University’s College of Arts & Sciences participate on one of Pacific’s 21 intercollegiate teams.  Many of those students have career ambitions in the health professions.
 
“I figured academic has to be an indicator because in Division III school comes first,” Anderson said.  “A lot of kids want to go into the health professions.  Most of the people we surveyed said their future aspirations were doctors, physical therapists and occupational therapists.  All are pretty tough careers.”
 
In addition to academic workload, Anderson wanted to know what role perfectionism played in burnout rate.  A self-defined perfectionist, she felt that trait definitely played a role in how she performed in the classroom and the responsibility she felt when her injuries didn’t allow her to perform at her best.
 
“When I got hurt, I just kept playing because I didn’t want to let my team down,” she said.  “That’s the kind of person I am.  Even in the classroom, I take on more than I can handle sometimes because I want it to be done right.”
 
For her burnout project, doing it right involved surveying 30 different Division III student-athletes.  About half of the participants were fellow Pacific athletes; the remainder came from other Northwest Conference schools and some east coast athletes set up by faculty advisor Rebecca Concepcion.
 
The survey asked a number of open-ended questions about why the students chose to go to college, why they played sports, career ambitions, injuries and potential pressures from peers and family. Participants also completed Raedeke & Smith’s Athlete Burnout Questionnaire, the Frost Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale and the Academic Motivation Scale.
 
So does academics get in the way of a perfectly good Division III athletics program?  According to Anderson, the answer is no.
 
Anderson’s research concluded that academic motivation and traits of perfectionism were not significant predictors of burnout. The research did show, however, that those who were perfectionists on the court, who couldn’t let a turnover or a missed shot go, were found to be a predictor of two burnout subscales: A reduced sense of accomplishment and devaluation.
 
Anderson said she was surprised by the results. “I was hoping that academic would have been more of a predictor,” she said.  “But if I were to look at the ages of the students, I would have thought that maybe they were freshmen who maybe did not have academics as important to them as seniors trying to get into graduate schools.”
 
The self-described perfectionist hasn’t let the unexpected results get in the way of a good senior research project, just like she didn’t let injuries get in the way of a solid collegiate basketball career.  Despite the beat up knees, Anderson parlayed a blue-collar work ethic into a starting role in both her junior and senior seasons.  She started 22 of the team’s 24 games this season, averaging six points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
 
At the end of that junior year, after the pain of the season and the second surgery in as many years on the same knee, Anderson needed an avenue to keep from burning out.  She needed a reminder of why she was not only at school, but why she endured the pain to stay on the court.  
 
So she sat down and watched herself on tape and she put her perfectionist tendencies aside.  Instead of breaking down defenses, evaluating how she ran the offense or transition, she just took in how much fun she having on the court. Reliving past glories, even from earlier in the season, lit the fire again.
 
“I tried to remember why I loved playing the game, and watching the old game film brought it back,” Anderson said. “I thought, ‘OK, you do love this game.  You do like to play.’ That got me through it.”
 
Anderson said that despite the injuries, the opportunity to play basketball at Pacific was a dream come true.  It allowed her to grow in ways that the classroom could never teach.
 
“Growing up I always looked at college athletes and thought of how great it would be to be one of them,” Anderson said.  “I loved being on a team.  I made so many friends and had opportunities that I never would have had.  It made me grow as a person.”
 
After graduating in May, Anderson plans to take a year off from school and move back to her hometown of Missoula, Mont. After her sabbatical, she plans to enter physical therapy school so she can help those who have traveled down her same road.

 

Brittney Anderson (Sr., Missoula, Mont.) spent her entire Pacific athletics career dealing with adversity and walking the fine line between staying motivated and burning out.

In her sophomore year as a forward for the Pacific women’s basketball team, Anderson played all season with a torn ACL in her right knee that she suffered during the summer. Anderson got through 20 games as the first woman off the bench before the pain ended her season.

She returned to her junior season with the ACL fully healed, but suffered a partially torn meniscus in the same knee. She got through all 25 games, making 23 starts, but had to grit through some amazing pain.

“I didn’t want to go to practices because I was in pain,” said Anderson.  “I wasn’t having fun on the court for the last two to three weeks.  I was hurt and on top of that was the stress of school and the fact that I had to pick a senior project topic.”

Considering Anderson’s path on the basketball court, it makes sense that the exercise science major chose a project that intertwined her experiences both on the court and in the classroom.

Entitled “The Relationship Between Burnout And Perfectionism With The Influence Of Academic Motivation In NCAA Division III Athletes,” Anderson wanted to find out if the academic rigors that accompanied competing at a Division III had any bearing on an athlete’s motivation. In other words, does a challenging academic program take away from the quality of a Division III student-athlete?

The question is a fair one as many Division III schools are considered among the top academic institutions in the nation. The NCAA’s largest division with 442 member schools and over 170,000 student-athletes (accounting for over 40 percent of the NCAA’s total membership), the Division III membership roles include such academic think tanks as Caltech, MIT, Johns Hopkins, Pomona and Pitzer colleges, Washington University (St. Louis, Mo.), Grinnell and Emory.

At Pacific, athletics is a key part of the liberal arts experience for a significant part of the undergraduate population.  Nearly one-third of those enrolled in the University’s College of Arts & Sciences participate on one of Pacific’s 21 intercollegiate teams.  Many of those students have career ambitions in the health professions.

“I figured academic has to be an indicator because in Division III school comes first,” Anderson said.  “A lot of kids want to go into the health professions.  Most of the people we surveyed said their future aspirations were doctors, physical therapists and occupational therapists.  All are pretty tough careers. 

In addition to academic workload, Anderson wanted to know what role perfectionism played in burnout rate.  A self-defined perfectionist, she felt that trait definitely played a role in how she performed in the classroom and the responsibility she felt when her injuries didn’t allow her to perform at her best.

“When I got hurt, I just kept playing because I didn’t want to let my team down,” she said.  “That’s the kind of person I am.  Even in the classroom, I take on more than I can handle sometimes because I want it to be done right.”

For her burnout project, doing it right involved surveying 30 different Division III student-athletes.  About half of the participants were fellow Pacific athletes; the remainder came from other Northwest Conference schools and some east coast athletes set up by faculty advisor Rebecca Concepcion.

The survey asked a number of open-ended questions about why the students chose to go to college, why they played sports, career ambitions, injuries and potential pressures from peers and family. Participants also completed Raedeke & Smith’s Athlete Burnout Questionnaire, the Frost Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale and the Academic Motivation Scale.

So does academics get in the way of a perfectly good Division III athletics program?  According to Anderson, the answer is no.

Anderson’s research concluded that academic motivation and traits of perfectionism were not significant predictors of burnout. The research did show, however, that those who were perfectionists on the court, who couldn’t let a turnover or a missed shot go, were found to be a predictor of two burnout subscales: A reduced sense of accomplishment and devaluation.

Anderson said she was surprised by the results. “I was hoping that academic would have been more of a predictor,” she said.  “But if I were to look at the ages of the students, I would have thought that maybe they were freshmen who maybe did not have academics as important to them as seniors trying to get into graduate schools.”

The self-described perfectionist hasn’t let the unexpected results get in the way of a good senior research project, just like she didn’t let injuries get in the way of a solid collegiate basketball career.  Despite the beat up knees, Anderson parlayed a blue-collar work ethic into a starting role in both her junior and senior seasons.  She started 22 of the team’s 24 games this season, averaging six points and 4.3 rebounds per game.

At the end of that junior year, after the pain of the season and the second surgery in as many years on the same knee, Anderson needed an avenue to keep from burning out.  She needed a reminder of why she was not only at school, but why she endured the pain to stay on the court.  

So she sat down and watched herself on tape and she put her perfectionist tendencies aside.  Instead of breaking down defenses, evaluating how she ran the offense or transition, she just took in how much fun she having on the court. Reliving past glories, even from earlier in the season, lit the fire again.

“I tried to remember why I loved playing the game, and watching the old game film brought it back,” Anderson said. “I thought, ‘OK, you do love this game.  You do like to play.’ That got me through it.”

Anderson said that despite the injuries, the opportunity to play basketball at Pacific was a dream come true.  It allowed her to grow in ways that the classroom could never teach.

“Growing up I always looked at college athletes and thought of how great it would be to be one of them,” Anderson said.  “I loved being on a team.  I made so many friends and had opportunities that I never would have had.  It made me grow as a person.”

After graduating in May, Anderson plans to take a year off from school and move back to her hometown of Missoula, Mont. After her sabbatical, she plans to enter physical therapy school so she can help those who have traveled down her same road.

 


Posted by Joe Lang (jlang@pacificu.edu) on Apr 13, 2012 at 4:23 PM

Edited by Stephanie Haugen (haug7381@pacificu.edu) on May 1, 2012 at 3:39 PM

Review/Edit in CANS

Share This Article
Facebook
del.icio.us
rss logo Subscribe to Feed
Related Pages
Media Releases
Pacific Newsroom